Category Archives: dog breeds

Cross-breeding to eradicate Chiari syndrome

In a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists from the University of Surrey, working with an experienced breeder in the Netherlands, examined how the skull and brain of toy dogs change when a Brussels Griffon with Chiari-like malformation is crossed with an Australian Terrier.  The succeeding hybrid puppy is then back crossed to a Brussels Griffon to give some of the features of the Brussels Griffon, but keeping the longer skull of the Australian Terrier.

Griffon and cross breed

Second-generation backcross and purebred Brussel Griffon Sire Photo credit: Henny van der Berg

The results from the study showed it is possible to breed a dog which had the external features of a short-nosed Brussels Griffon and reduce the risk of Chiari malformation, a debilitating condition found in toy dogs and affecting 1 in 1,280 humans.  The disease is characterised by premature fusion of skull bones forcing parts of the brain to push through the opening in the back of the skull causing fluid filled cavities to develop in the spinal cord. Chiari malformation causes headaches, problems with walking or even paralysis and has become prevalent in some toy breed dogs as a result of selective breeding.

The breeder, Henny van der Berg proposed the project idea after an accidental mating between two of her dogs.  The four-year study analysed five traits on magnetic resonance images (MRI) scans and how they changed generation by generation in the family of 29 dogs.  Using a careful selection of head shape and MRI scans over two generations, the findings revealed it was possible to breed a dog which had the external features of a Brussels Griffon, but is less susceptible to Chiari malformation.

“This is a true collaboration with breeders and researchers working together and using their expertise to improve the health of dogs,” said Dr Clare Rusbridge from the University of Surrey.

“Our study investigated how the characteristics of this disease is inherited in the family.  Such knowledge could help in tackling this debilitating disease in toy dog breeds.  We hope our research will help develop more sophisticated ways of screening and improve breeding guidelines by creating robust breeding values.”

The team at the University of Surrey is now collaborating with geneticists at the University of Montreal, and correlating the skull and brain traits visualised on magnetic resonance images with the dog genome. This information will then be translated to humans.

Source:  University of Surrey media release

My other posts about Chiari malformation include:

Joey and the Pit Bull


People who have autism are often misunderstood.  So are Pit Bulls.  These two make a great pair.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Homeopathics, in pack order

The Telegraph has reported this week that Queen Elizabeth II feeds her dogs in ‘order of seniority’  and that the dogs consume a range of herbal and homeopathic remedies.

Queen with Corgi

The Queen of England couldn’t be more Establishment and yet – there she is – open-minded enough to recognise that herbals and homeopathics may help keep her Corgis in good health, for longer.

I respect her for that.

It’s long been reported and known that the Queen is an animal-lover.  Dr Mugford, an animal psychologist who has worked with the Queen’s dogs says “The Queen has definite views about how dogs should be cared for: she doesn’t tolerate unkindness, and I remember she took a very dim view of President Lyndon B Johnson picking his dogs up by their ears.”

Queen Elizabeth has made the decision fairly recently not to replace her Corgis when they pass away, which has been a long-standing tradition in her household.  This is surely a sign that the Queen is feeling the pressures of time and old age.  She doesn’t want to bring dogs into the household when it’s highly likely they will out-live her.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

 

Mensa dogs

Dogs have measurable IQs, like people, suggests new research from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the University of Edinburgh.

The research, published in the journal Intelligence, looked at whether dog intelligence is structured in a similar way as in humans. When IQ, or ‘general intelligence’, is tested in people, individuals tend to perform comparably across different types of cognitive tasks –  those who do well in one type of task, tend to do well in others.

Dog intelligence test

The researchers created a proto-type dog ‘IQ test’ which they used to assess the intelligence of 68 working border collies. These tests included: navigation, tested by timing how long it took the dogs to get food that was behind different types of barriers; assessing whether they could tell the difference between quantities of food and; their ability to follow a human pointing gesture to an object.

The researchers found that dogs that did well on one test tended be better at the other tests. Furthermore, dogs that did tests faster were likely to do them more accurately.

Dr Rosalind Arden, a Research Associate at LSE, said: “Just as people vary in their problem solving abilities, so do dogs, even within one breed. This is significant because in humans there is a small but measurable tendency for people who are brighter to be healthier and live longer.  So if, as our research suggests, dog intelligence is structured similarly to ours, studying a species that doesn’t smoke, drink, use recreational drugs and does not have large differences in education and income, may help us understand this link between intelligence and health better.

“In addition, dogs are one of the few animals that reproduce many of the key features of dementia, so understanding their cognitive abilities could be valuable in helping us to understand the causes this disorder in humans and possibly test treatments for it.”

The suite of tests was conducted in under an hour per dog, which is comparable with the time it takes a person to do an IQ-type test.  Previous research on canine cognitive abilities has taken much longer to administer.

Dr Mark Adams, Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, said: “This is only a first step, but we are aiming to create a dog IQ test that is reliable, valid and can be administered quickly.  Such a test could rapidly improve our understanding of the connection between dog intelligence, health, even lifespan, and be the foundation of ‘dognitive epidemiology’

“Dogs are excellent for this kind of work because they are willing to participate and seem to enjoy taking part.”

In order to get a large sample of dogs from similar backgrounds the researchers recruited working border collies, which meant that there weren’t big differences in how they were raised.

Source:  London School of Economics and Political Science media release

Personal comment:  Dogs must be a popular research topic if even the London School of Economics is getting into the act!

Jimmy the Bull

On artist’s Rafael Mantesso’s thirtieth birthday, his wife left him.

She took their cookware, their furniture, their photos.  But she left Rafael with Jimmy, their bull terrier who she had named after shoe designer Jimmy Choo.

With only Jimmy for company in an apartment painted white, Rafael found inspiration in his blank walls and his best friend and started snapping photos of Jimmy Choo.  Then, when Jimmy collapsed in happy exhaustion next to the white wall, on a whim Rafael grabbed a marker and drew a new world around his pup.

Jimmy with champagne

And this began a collaboration of the artist and his bull terrier which gained fame through social media – even attracting the attention of the Jimmy Choo brand.  In May 2015, they launched a limited edition line of accessories featuring Jimmy the Bull.

Jimmy Stop Wars

And a book of Mantesso’s drawings, A Dog Named Jimmy is also available.  In November 2015, it made the New York Times bestseller list.

A Dog named Jimmy

I love bullies and clearly many other people do, too.  Jimmy even has a 2016 calendar featuring his image.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Christmas house guest

It’s been a busy week and so the blog has been quieter than normal.  Then yesterday, on Christmas Eve, I got a text from another greyhound owner.  His kennel plans had fallen through and he wondered if I could take his dog, Sala, for a couple of days.

No worries!

Bed switching

To make a house guest feel welcome, you let them sleep in your bed. You sleep in theirs.

Izzy has enjoyed having a playmate today (Christmas Day).  We went for an off-leash run at the Groynes dog park.

Izzy at Groynes

And after a breakfast, it was time for a big rest.

Greyhound on sofa

Izzy never goes on the sofa (she prefers the queen-sized bed). Sala found it quite comfortable, however.

Then it was time to tuck into the pigs ears that Sala’s Dad brought:

Followed later by an afternoon walk, and some cooked liver over dog food.  We are once again settling in for the night and more play time tomorrow.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

First puppies born by in vitro fertilization

Researchers from Cornell University and the Smithsonian Institution have solved the decades-long puzzle of canine in vitro fertilization (IVF), resulting in the world’s first litter of IVF puppies.

Photo by Mike Carroll, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Photo by Mike Carroll, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

The breakthrough, described in a study published in the journal Public Library of Science ONE, opens the door for preserving endangered canid species using assisted reproduction techniques. It could also enable researchers to eradicate heritable diseases in dogs and facilitate the study of genetic diseases in dogs and humans, which share many of the same or similar illnesses.

Researchers at the Cornell laboratory transferred 19 embryos to a host female dog, who gave birth last spring to seven healthy puppies. Genetic testing shows that two are from a beagle mother and a cocker spaniel father, and five from two pairings of beagle fathers and mothers.

“Since the mid-1970s, people have been trying to do [IVF] in a dog and have been unsuccessful,” said co-author Alex Travis, associate professor of reproductive biology at the Baker Institute for Animal Health in Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

The paper’s first author, Jennifer Nagashima, was a graduate student whose participation in the project was funded by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) and Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. The National Institutes of Health and the Baker Institute provided funding for the project itself.

Laboratories perform successful IVF with other mammals—including humans—by retrieving mature eggs and sperm and combining them in an artificial environment to produce embryos. The embryos are transferred to a host female at the right time in her reproductive cycle.

Past attempts at canine IVF failed because a female dog’s reproductive cycle differs from that of other mammals. Canine eggs retrieved at the same stage of cell maturation as other animals failed to fertilize. By applying the oocyte biology expertise of SCBI’s Nucharin Songsasen, a research biologist and co-author, the team found that if they left the egg in the oviduct one extra day, the eggs reached the stage where fertilization was most likely to occur.

In addition, the female canine tract plays a role in preparing sperm for fertilization, so researchers had to simulate those conditions in the lab. Building on Travis’s earlier work on sperm physiology, the team found that sperm could be artificially prepared by adding magnesium to the cell culture.

“We made those two changes, and now we achieve success in fertilization rates at 80 to 90 percent,” Travis said.

The final challenge arises because female dogs can only become pregnant once or twice a year. This means embryos must be created ahead of time and preserved until the host female is at the right point in her cycle.

The birth of IVF puppies has wide implications for wildlife conservation. “We can freeze and bank sperm, and use it for artificial insemination,” Travis said. “We can also freeze oocytes, but in the absence of in vitro fertilization, we couldn’t use them. Now we can use this technique to conserve the genetics of endangered species.” The method can also be used to preserve rare breeds of show and working dogs.

In addition, embryonic dogs now offer a “powerful tool for understanding the genetic basis of diseases” in canines and humans, Travis said. Dogs share more than 350 similar heritable disorders and traits with humans, almost twice the number as any other species.

A successful IVF process for canines may one day enable researchers to remove genetic diseases and traits in an embryo, ridding dogs of heritable diseases such as lymphoma, a cancer that is more prevalent in breeds like Golden Retrievers. “With a combination of gene editing techniques and IVF, we can potentially prevent genetic disease before it starts,” Travis said.

Source:  Cornell University media release